‘Mother, You Had Me But I Never Had You’
(9 Sep 2020)
Today I shall write something about my mother. I have written very little about her throughout my time on social media or my web-site.
Today would have been my mother’s 90th birthday. Or so people tell me. Some family tell me that she was born this day in 1930; other family told me other years. My mother used 1930 for her acting career resume. The consensus seems to be 1930. That’s all I know from what they tell me, I have no documentation. I have never seen her Birth Certificate. I have never seen her Death Certificate; I only know that she died 20 Aug 2002 because I saw that in the Social Security Death Index.
Check my own Birth Certificate, you say. Nope. I have no Birth Certificate. Oh, I have a birth ‘document’, but it has no official, legal standing or force. The identities of my parents are absent. Passport agency does not accept it as valid documentation, as in for my Passport renewal five years ago. My actual Birth Certificate is ‘sealed’ by the state of my supposed birth.
My mother was as most any of us – touches of good, bad, and in between – good memories, bad memories, and just plain ‘memories’. I doubt that she ever did anything groundbreaking or Earth-shattering. She lived her life as we ‘normal’ people do.
My earliest memories of my mother are watching TV in the morning after my sister Kathy went to school – soap operas, game shows, Betty Boop cartoons. Or her taking me with her when she worked at the KUPD AM radio station; she refused to dump me at daycare, the people at work enjoyed having me, a well-behaved child. Or our trip to Las Vegas that KUPD AM awarded to her for a successful ad campaign that she created. Or seeing her asleep, crashed on the blue sofa in the rear living room, the blue sofa with countless patched cigarette burns – not knowing at my tender age that she was sloshed or that she could have burned down our home with her cigarettes. Or buying cigarettes for her from the restaurant vending machines, or smoking her cigarettes. Or her dating other men – cheating on her husband with Smitty, Alan, and others. Or eating lunch at the Stockyards restaurant, the dim atmosphere, Smitty lighting some of his alcohol cocktail in the ashtray to make a blue flame. Or getting a traffic ticket after taking Kathy to school one day. Or beating me with gawd knows what because, as a toddler, I was playing in the dirt in our backyard as any toddler. Or beating both Kathy and me for gawd knows what more, likely another drunken outburst; Kathy and I would cover our sores with Vaseline to prevent our clothes from sticking to our wounds. Or hanging out with her and her friends who came to party at our home, play their musical instruments; I remember one time when a drummer allowed me to sit with him and play his drums. Or my mother teaching me to read music and to play her Baby Grand Piano. Or her teaching me how to be gentle with her phonograph records when I played them on our Hi-Fi record player in the early morning hours. All these, and more, events happened before I attended Kindergarten at age 5 (1961).
My mother was an actress. Her early professional credits included ‘27 Men’, a TV series about the Arizona Rangers. She regularly acted in numerous community theatre across the country, she regularly did radio and TV commercials, she had small roles in movies. She was hardly more than an accomplished working actress, certainly neither the ‘A’ list or the ‘B’ list. No Hollywood red carpets. No premiere night searchlights. (See attached pictures.)
My mother and father had their separation about the time when I was in Kindergarten or 1st Grade. Their divorce was final during my 1st Grade; initial custody of both my sister Kathy and me went to our mother, permanent custody changed to our father during Summer 1963, between my 1st Grade and 2nd Grade. I owned my first camera that Summer; I remember taking a picture of my mother coming to our apartment to pick up Kathy and me for visitation. I remember that photograph; I’d post it here, but it was amongst my property that criminals stole six years ago.
I remember telling my mother my new name. It was a Saturday morning during visitation; I was about age 8 (1964). We were in the kitchen, I sat at the table as she cooked breakfast while Alan, Kathy and Chuckie slept in their bedrooms. Alone time – my mother and me – I expected to have a serious talk with her without disruption from the others. I told my mother that I want my new name to be Sharon.
– ‘That’s a girl’s name. Why do you want a girl’s name!’ replied my mother, her demeaning tone when she said ‘girl’.
– ‘I’m a girl, Mom!’ was my responce – stressing that I am a girl.
I don’t know if anyone heard our exchange that morning. I kept my mouth shut afterwards, dejected.
I remember, later that Summer of 1964, walking from home where my father, Kathy, and I lived to my mother’s home – more than 40 city blocks away. I was afraid of my father, that he would beat me because I lost another of his innumerable Catholic crucifix necklaces that he demanded that I wear. I took it off to go swimming at the city pool that afternoon and lost it. I don’t know other than I felt safer with my mother than with my father as this situation would unfold. Yep, my mother didn’t beat me. The weekend gave my father time to cool down.
My mother and I were seriously injured in a car crash (1966). A teenager with no licence, registration, or insurance ran a red light and T-boned her new VW Bug. He hit our car at my mother’s side – right there at her driver’s door. The door was smashed inward, the shattered glass sprayed into her, the force of the collision embedded that glass into her skin. My mother told me that she was continually picking out pieces of glass.
I remember talking on the telephone to my mother on Election Day 1968. She told me – proudly – that she voted for Wallace. UGH! My mother had a curious White supremist racist streak despite her own ethnicity. Her background includes Hispanic. She frequently told me how her school class-mates picked on her, abused her, as ‘that little Mexican girl’.
My mother and I had a real bad argument after her second husband Alan yelled at me for something that I no longer remember one Friday evening, early in that weekend’s visitation (February 1967). I called my father on the telephone – I asked my father to come get me and I told him that I refused to continue to do visitation with my mother. I literally did not see my mother, speak to my mother til 1970.
My father ordered me to visit with my mother on a school vacation day during my 9th Grade (December 1970). I did so quite grudgingly. My mother and I did some errands then sat in the city park and talked.
I remember using my mother to skip 9th Grade school on several occasions (1971). Dunno if I formulated this scheme on my day with my mother a few months earlier. I would call her in the morning before school started; I asked her to call school and tell them that I was staying home because I was sick. I did go to her home and spend my ditch day with her. Sometimes, we watched a movie on TV. Sometimes she taught me to draw. Sometimes she played her latest accomplishment on her Baby Grand Piano. One time, I observed in horror her enthusiasm as she watched a documentary about Hitler.
I travelled the 200 miles from my home to visit my mother a few times during the two years that my father went to Brasil. My mother travelled to visit me once (1975); we talked. My mother invited me to visit her during the week when she was working as an actress in ‘A Star Is Born’ (1976). She wanted me to register with her agent to get a paid role as an extra. We both worked on the set for two days during my visit. My parts in the movie are likely resting on the Cutting Room floor. My mother is in scenes at a restaurant, a ‘concert’ for ‘Indian Relief’, and the finale.
My mother and her second husband Alan moved to Kentucky (1977). It was in early 1978 when I sent my letter to her with copies of my 1977 acceptance papers to Stanford University Medical Center’s ‘Gender Dysphoria Program’.
I travelled from out-of-town to visit my mother (1979). During this visit, I overheard a conversation. My mother told Kathy that she had been ‘one and done’ with her. I heard that phrase many times growing up, I didn’t comprehend that phrase til that day, her words meaning that Kathy is our mother’s only child, another clear statement from that woman who raised me that she is not my real biological birth mother. Later, during that visit, my mother gave a document to me:
– ‘Here. This is all you get.’
What my mother gave to me that day was that useless birth document.
The next year (September 1980), I stayed with my mother where she was house-sitting for Kathy, who was supposed to be house-sitting for her employer, instead, Kathy went to San Diego for the Labor Day weekend (1980). My mother and I watched movies on their new-fangled VCR. We skipt ‘Star Wars’. We skipt a porn movie. We spent much of the weekend watching and re-watching ‘Gone with the Wind’. This was the first time when I saw my mother since the prior year. Much had been happening, I brought my mother current in my Transition. I proudly showed my Diethylstilbestrol prescription meds to my mother. She scoffed:
– ‘That’s candy.’
Nope. Those little red pills were the real deal, but my mother refused to acknowledge that reality. I’d have consumed that entire bottle of pills if it would have satisfied her that they were real. Maybe I should have given those tablets to her to try, for her to really know that those pills are real.
Cousin Nancy from Texas was getting married (June 1984); she invited me to her wedding. I travelled from Utah to Louisiana where my mother lived. She, her mother, and I drove to Texas for the wedding. Cousin Nancy’s wedding and reception went well. I filmed it and later made VHS copies for both Cousin Nancy and my mother. I was okay with my maternal grandmother being there, though I hoped that my mother and I would have had quiet time between only the two of us so that I could share updates about my Transition.
Ugh! My mother participated as a Delegate for David Duke to the 1988 Republi-con Con-vention. She later campaigned for Duke for Governor.
My father was dying (1989). I went to stay with him for what would be his last three weeks alive. He died on a Wednesday night that July. My mother came to visit from out-of-state, but was too late, arriving Thursday. I begged my mother to spend time with me because I would be leaving for home on Saturday morning. Nope. She chose to spend Thursday chatting it up with my deceased father’s older sister and her husband. My mother left early Friday morning to travel to another city to visit her family; she told me that she would not be returning til Saturday afternoon. I doubt that my mother and I spent more than a few minutes at all that Thursday.
I visited Kathy at her home (1992). My mother was there to help Kathy with her first two children – Mike was born in 1990, Rachael was born in 1992 a few months earlier. I made a video of the visit – Kathy making lunch one day, my mother and Kathy chatting in the kitchen, Kathy bottle-feeding Rachael, Kathy’s husband Glenn playing baseball with Mike. I occasionally watch this video and realise that I am not part of that family; as Kathy made quite clear, telling me at numerous times: ‘You are NOT family!’.
My mother came to visit me at Tucson (1992). This did not go well. We hardly talked. I had to be up at 5am to go to work; I was gone before she woke up. I usually brought some kind of fast food home for supper because I had no idea what she wanted to eat, despite plenty of food in the refrigerator and cabinets. Then, after I arrived home from work, we’d sit in silence watching TV til I had to go to bed early to wake up at 5am the next morning. This visit ended badly. She took out her pistol from her purse. I honestly did not comprehend the lethal danger of what she was doing at that time. I later came to realise that she threatened me, as it all came back about the times when she would beat me when I was a small child. She still had murder in her heart or in her mind.
A few years later (1995), she tried to visit me at Tucson. But she had not kept current with my activities. I was recording the ‘Punk Versus Ska’ event at Phoenix’ ‘Party Gardens’ for my Rock Club Rising TV show.
My mother and I exchanged a few occasional letters during the next years. She sent a letter to me and included a letter from her lawyer (late 1990s). It was her Will with instructions for the division of her property. She wrote and confirmed to me that Kathy admitted stealing from what was to be my portion of our father’s estate. Our mother made her letter a warning to Kathy that she did not want to allow Kathy to do it again with her estate. That never happened. Kathy again stole from another estate – our mother’s. Kathy never corresponded with me when our mother was ill and dying, never contacted me about making funeral arrangements, never brought me into the disposition of the estate according to our mother’s Will. Kathy never wrote to me or called me throughout all the intervening years. It was not til 2010 when I sent a stern e-mail to Kathy that she admitted that she withheld these family matters from me – eight years after our mother’s death.
A similar version of this composition is posted to my (Sharon Nichols) Facebook page.
Dear Reader: Thank you for coming, visiting, reading today.
Please return for the next episode.
Thank you to the Resources who contribute to this page. Acknowledgement and credit goes to those who create their social media content, essays, and images.
Enjoy the current collection of news reports, memes, photographs, images, and graphics appearing throughout this web-site.
John Lennon – ‘Mother’
Update (10 Sep 21):
Facebook notified me of a ‘Memories’ of what I posted to my page last year.
I wrote this narrative here to my Slim and Me web-site to remember my mother’s birthday last year (2020) and posted a similar version to my Facebook page.
Today is Friday afternoon. I went to check my Facebook ‘Memories’ for today. This composition was the sole ‘Memories’ there for 10 Sep 21.
Now to that coincidence.
I’m watching Movies TV digital channel – it is the 1976 re-make of ‘A Star Is Born’. ‘Star’ was beginning when I opened this Facebook ‘Memories’. Working in ‘Star’ is one of the few positive memories – our shared experience – that I have with my mother.
My mother was a regular with the Bobby Ball talent agency that did casting for ‘Star’, she got me approved to work the movie for a week when I went to visit her during Easter vacation.
Seeing ‘Star’ today takes me back in time, remembering watching the rehearsals and the movie being made, myself getting selected for scenes, seeing it again today and knowing it personally.
My mother and I went to see ‘Star’ during Christmas vacation. That cinema was at Thomas Mall, demolished long ago during the 1990s.
I should compose a narrative about that visit, about that week, about subsequent related events.